Perhaps the title of this post should be “Three disciplines often missing from my preaching.” I can certainly grow in these areas. However, I don’t believe I’m alone. Through my interactions with other pastors, I have found many of us missing three disciplines in preaching. What are they?
1. Preaching with patience. I must credit my friend, Kevin Smith, with this one. He’s given me this advice. Pastors teach their congregations the benefits of patience and expect patience from their people. However, how often are we patient in our preaching? We must teach patience by showing patience. There is a time to be pointed and prophetic. But more often than not, the pulpit should be a place of patient and loving preaching.
2. Incorporating historical examples. People prefer the here and now, and it makes sense. We don’t live in the past. However, there is much to learn from the past. Many preachers today use current events in their sermons or simply something that happened that week to them. I do the same because it helps connect the text to the lives of my congregation. Researching historical examples takes more time. It’s more challenging because you have to teach history while at the same time connecting the illustration to the text. The problem with using only current stories is your people miss out on the metanarrative of God’s mission throughout history. When you incorporate historical examples, you demonstrate how God worked in the past. When your congregation understands how God worked in the past, they are more inclined to get excited about how he works today.
3. Using an economy of words. Every word in a sermon is important. Longer sermons are not necessarily wrong or bad, but too many sermons are long simply because of too many unnecessary words. When I preach thirty-minute sermons, I’ve found these sermons have precision. When I preach forty-five-minute sermons, I’ve found these sermons tend to have two or three sections that drone on. Few preachers can maintain an economy of words for forty-five minutes. Better to go shorter and be more precise.
These three disciplines are not the only things missing from preaching today. What would you add? Also, they are not the essential pieces of preaching. But I believe these three areas of improvement are well worth the effort.
Posted on April 13, 2022
As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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Good lesson learned.
You should consider the people (who will be) in the pews. Who are they? Do you know what they believe? Do you have any credibility with them? I saw this in university chapel. Far too many did not think about their audience before going up to preach. They ignored the ages, situations, etc. Whatever they said was ignored by the majority.
I have a problem with the attire that preachers preach in on Sunday’s. Look at all the sports commentators and how they’re dressed in suits and ties. It’s no wonder the world doesn’t have much confidence in preachers and churches for letting their preacher come in the pulpit with a tea shirt and ragged blue Jeans and tennis shoes. I guess I’m from the old school , but I firmly believe that preachers ought to wear their best preaching.
That is true. There Should be an attire requirement for pulpit dress. At some churches, there is a Sunday that you can dress down. I think that’s fair enough.
One of the things keeping an eye on the historical along with the contemporary is that helps bring hope. In our Parish, we have nearly 400 years experience (2042 is our 400th anniversary) and there are themes that can be found throughout our history. We have recently done some work with revisioning and it was highlighted that the Parish was less than 15 members about every 50 years. One member said, when he arrived in the 1960s there were 4 people in church on a regular basis; the number grew to ~60 by the late 1990s and has been in decline since before COVID. And the 1960s wasn’t the first time – in fact the church was unoccupied for nearly 30 years sometime around 1830.
Another reason to remember the history of our faith, that is a Biblical way of telling the stories of our foundation. The Hebrew Scripture Prophets refreshed the Israelite’s memory time and again to highlight God’s promises. So did Paul and the New Testament writers.
A wise person told me, if all you preach on is the event of the day you lose sight of the never-changing nature of God’s promises. And there can be an impression of “this is the end of time” even though we are still doing the same things that the Israelites did in the time of Moses. And yet, here we are, and God is still with us.
Sam, could you expand on what you mean by patient preaching? What are hallmarks of patient preaching, and what would be the opposite? Thanks!
Part of my experience of patience in preaching is not specifically expecting for immediate change or action. While there are some things that may be revelatory in a single sermon, most of the real growth in my congregation comes from revisiting the same points time and again. Not always using the same illustration but having a foundational point and stressing that point from time to time.
It has been my experience, both as a follower of Christ since 1980 and an ordained minister for nearly 12 years, most change and understanding is an epiphany, a revelation of something that is already there and under appreciated, as opposed to the “bolt from the blue” revelatory experience.
Thanks for asking the question. I could probably write a whole other article on the topic. Patient preachers:
1. Understand a variety of people of all ages are listening with varying degrees of spiritual maturity.
2. Do not try to cram as much as possible into one sermon.
3. Are sensitive to the experiences of people in the congregation (those painful and joyful).
4. Write sermons with the hope they will be at the church for the long haul.
5. Craft sermons with edification as the goal rather than education.
Great content, as usual. I’m a bit of a history buff, so I have to remind myself to find current events. I also preach from a well-rehearsed manuscript which helps with the economy of words. Lack of patience? I have definitely been guilty.
Since becoming a senior pastor who got to preach nearly every week (but since retired to hospice chaplaincy), the most challenging part of crafting a sermon for me was getting the introduction together. I usually started with a story that would lead into the point I wanted to draw from the text. I won’t say exegesis and application were easy, but I at least knew what I had to do. Introductions – they challenged my brain.
A book that a mentor suggested to me was very helpful. 365 stories – most of them historical with moral punch. Here’s the link:
Eric Metaxas also has a series of books that are collections of short bios that are also good resources. They all start with the number “7.”
Happy (and especially, fruitful) preaching!
Thanks Bob! That’s a solid suggestion.